The presence of others who see what we see and hear what we hear assures us of the reality of the world and of ourselves.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Citizens´ Privatisation of Public Space

One of the huge contrasts of the modern era has been between public and private. This contrast has become even greater in as cities grow and are transformed into metropolises. According to Lyn H Lofland, the city is a community made up of strangers, something that was not experienced in villages or towns. The individual therefore is seeking to reconcile the feeling of strangeness.* Privatisation of public space enables citizens to develop a feeling of belonging to a place within which they live.

A lively and constantly growing cities tend to define its parameters shaped by its citizens. Although local authorities attempt to impose legislation on the city, its citizens remain resistant to some regulation, developing their own tactics for taking the power open space. The informal creation of urban spaces, hybrid and continuously changing, are always full of people. 

The way that citizens in these ways take advantage of unprogrammed public spaces and live the city as they want to, raises lot of questions for architects and planners. Can something in-between, which gives the citizens the opportunity to make their own decisions about their city, be designed and applied?

* LH Lofland, A World of Strangers, 1973

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Unprogrammed spaces

«When public spaces are successful […] they will increase opportunities to participate in communal activity. This fellowship in the open nurtures the growth of public life, which is stunted by the social isolation of ghettos and suburbs. In the parks, plazas, markets, waterfronts, and natural areas of our cities, people from different cultural groups can come together in a supportive context of mutual enjoyment. As these experiences are repeated, public spaces become vessels to carry positive communal meanings».(Carr, Francis, Rivlin and Stone, 1993)

A continually evolving city is like a living organism - it owes much of its vibrancy and heterogeneity to its unprogrammed spaces. These spaces create a blank canvas for citizens and their activities. If space is unprogrammed it means that a function has not yet been attributed to it, it can be transformed by its users. Unprogrammed space does not require people to come and create; it is just there waiting to be discovered and improvised. It is self-organising, unstable and variable. It is a public space that is open to being privatised by citizens themselves. The metamorphosis of unprogrammed spaces relies on their users. Whether its features are designed or not is a possibility.

Globalisation and advances in communication have all but eradicated the homogeneous metropolises of the past. City is mainly heterogeneous, both socially and economically,  due to its population high rates of immigration from various rural areas of the country. Scaled down to urban space, this heterogeneity causes multiple uses of unprogrammed spaces. It provides citizens with opportunities to meet and interact.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

The street life of Havana

"If children playing in the streets is an indicator of the success of a city, then Havana's streets may be some of the most successful in the world." Ethan Kent, 2009

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Interactions and Artifacts shape the City?

Sidewalk Series is a series of proposals for New York sidewalk interventions inspired by Antenna´s observations in the city. The interventions, in the form of street furniture and fixtures, resonate with people´s obscure yearnings and facilitate odd actions and temporary relations amongst strangers. The presence of these objects in the particular context invites (inter)action and shifts the perception and experience of various places. They pick up on current habits, give a new spin and encourage encounters: Shrink Bench, Hugging Tree, Exercise Stop, Escape Loft, Gum Sculpture and Sidewalk Exchange.

"We love wandering through the city, sometimes without any particular destination or reason. Streets are usually filled with people busy going about their routine or immersed in their own world. The city consist of psyches as much as materials. From an observer´s point of view, it appears to be kind of continuous theater with everyone being a performer or amongst people mediated by the artifact. The interactions and artifacts shape the impression of the city and become part of the urban experience."

Monday, 18 January 2010

To wonder rather than answer

"The stupidity of people comes from having an answer to everything. The wisdom of the novel comes from having a question for everything... it seems to me that all over the world people nowadays prefer to judge rather than to understand, to answer rather than to ask, so that the voice of the novel can hardly be heard over the noisy foolishness of human certainties." 

Milan Kundera, Interview on the Book of Laughter and Forgetting

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Urban Cursor - Social interaction and play

Urban Cursor is a GPS enabled object by Sebastian Campion, designed to facilitate social interaction and play in public space.

The object, which is shaped as an oversized 3-dimensional computer cursor (pointer), was placed on a square in Figueres, Catalunya during the cultural festival Ingràvid. Here, people could touch it, move it around and sit on it as an alternative to the benches. Despite being removed from its normal screen based environment, the cursor was still in touch with the digital world. Via an embedded GPS device, the cursor transmitted its geographic coordinates to a website. At the website, the coordinates were mapped in Google Maps thereby documenting the cursor's movements in the physical world and making it possible for participants to see how they collectively helped move the object around. 

Questioning the frontier of public spaces

"My experiments are focused on the human presence in cities. How to appropriate public spaces with cheap medium and ephemeral action, questioning the frontier between public spaces and private spaces I use regularly with various techniques with tapes, sealing foil, inflatables and I  propose new shaped spaces (which are grafted onto the existing urban furnitures) that become multifunctional  by people uses, allowing passersby to take the time to sit, watch, children playing, then leave. "

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Individual Borders

"I approached people on the street and asked them to define their own personal border around themselves, while in front of the official one. I offered them a box full of different coloured chalk with which to draw their borders on the street. Most of the 40 participants instinctively defined their personal borders in a public space as a circle around themselves." 

Iris Hoppe, Individual Borders (2003), the movie
Iris Hoppe, Interventions in Public Space

Spaces that could create communal dialogue

"... It can be manifested with an architecture grounded in its use by people. One potent point of departure could be the boundaries and adaptation of space. It might be argued that contemporary architecture is a rethinking and perhaps softening of the borders: inside/ outside, individual and public, program and form, physical and virtual... 

Perhaps the oxymoron can represent a productive paradigm; can these binaries (intersections of public/ private, global/ local, artificial/ natural, monumental/ mundane, complex/ simple, symbolic/ pragmatic, fake/ authentic, active/ passive, thickness/ thinness) lead to a duality capable of blurring the boundaries? How can the unexpected interdependency of extraordinary spaces create a communal/ symbiotic dialogue?" 

Kazuyo Sejima has been appointed as Director for 12th Venice Architecture Biennale.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Empowering Everyday Civic Engagement

Urban Atmospheres desires to move towards an improved understanding of the emotional experience of urban life. The single main research challenge is to understand how the future fabric of digital and wireless computing will influence, disrupt, expand, and be integrated into the social patterns existent within our public urban landscapes.